The contribution of animal science to livestock production in third world countries is meagre. The productivity of their meat and milk producing animals is a small part of that obtained by the livestock in developed countries, and the availability of meat and milk per person is less than one tenth of that the western world so readily accepts. Yet livestock are enormously important to the economics of these countries. When the role of their livestock in rural transportation, land cultivation, providing manure for crop production and in utilizing non arable lands and crop residues is added to the direct economic output of meat, milk and fibre, the value of their livestock output is about half the value of total agricultural production. Livestock also provide the critical cash reserve and cash income for many small farmers who grow crops essentially for subsistence purposes.
The record of success of the many international institutions charged with improving livestock output in the third world is equally meagre. Large scale attempts to transfer the technology of the livestock producers of developed countries, the investment of large capital sums in many development projects, the efforts made to improve markets and processing facilities, and to stimulate national research and teaching, have failed to prevent the third world recently becoming a major importer of livestock products rather than the exporter it previously was. Obviously there is no easy answer to the problem of inadequate productivity. Equally obviously, new and radical thinking and fresh insights are called for.
The basic reason for the poor performance of livestock in the third world lies in the seasonal inadequacy of the quantity and quality of feed available. These feed deficiencies are rarely tackled by conservation and supplementation, while mineral deficiencies are often undiagnosed. The utilization of the feed that is available is commonly constrained by a failure to use management practices that can help animal output.
Within this depressing scenario of declining availability of meat and milk per person, and increasing livestock imports, world trade in coarse grains is rising rapidly as the grain surplus of Europe and North America is moved to third world countries, in part to provide for the rapidly expanding demand amongst wealthier urban consumers of poultry, pig, and dairy products. As in Western countries, relative affluence is a major claimant on food supplies.
Yet there are many food sources for ruminant livestock that are unused, undeveloped, and poorly utilised, and these could make a major impact on livestock output. Preston and Leng are pioneers in pursuing the pragmatic approach of assessing and using what is to hand, of matching feed resources to livestock production systems. As the then manager of ILCA, I invited these two distinguished scientists to offer a course of lectures on their work in the critical subject of better resource utilisation. The result was enormously stimulating yet it resulted in controversy and heated words as some animal nutritionists reject their views. Their lectures were then expanded into a book first published by ILCA as a test edition in April 1986, and subsequently revised and added to prior to its projected release by ILCA as a major published text. I left ILCA at the end of 1986. Subsequent to my departure, ILCA decided to heed the virulent critics and to withhold the publication of this book. I am delighted Preston and Leng are now publishing this edition privately.
Their views pose great challenges to all who seek to improve the welfare of third world farmers—at the very least they provide the stimulus of new ideas which are so necessary if we are to break out of the approaches that have so notably lacked in success in the third world.
Ex Director General of ILCA